Legacy Content

Jim on Film
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by Jim Miles (archives)
September 7, 2004
Jim discusses the Disney films that influenced him and made him a Disney fan.

Look Out for Mr. Stork:
The Birth of a Disney Fan

There are people who like Disney movies, and then there are people who like Disney movies. People who like Disney movies have their favorites, perhaps take their kids to see a few in theaters, and visit the theme parks. People who like Disney movies take it a little further, treating the latest DVD release of a classic live-action film as a major day on the calendar (such as with the DVD release of The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band for me), seeing the latest animated features on opening weekend, and doing things like visiting LaughingPlace.com.

For those people who like Disney movies, there are many different events that spurned their interest. For me, there were six key films that really keyed me into studying and loving Disney movies. My parents took me to a few Disney movies in the theaters, but film-going was never a regular part of my childhood, and it wasn’t until I was older that I came to realize the enjoyment of seeing a movie on the big screen in a room full of people. My particular affinity for Disney films came through my realization that not only did I really enjoy animation but that there was artistry and a history behind each Disney film. As I studied books to learn about Disney’s animated films, I would then turn to other pages and read about Disney’s live-action films, which would inspire me to rent many of the classic Disney live-action films as well.

Below are the six films that most heavily influenced my love of many things Disney.

The Skeleton Dance (1929) It would be many, many years before I was to learn that The Skeleton Dance was not only a Disney short, but that, as the first in the Silly Symphonies series, it was a significant one. When I was quite young, a friend’s mom checked out a video of Disney shorts at the library. I didn’t have a VCR at home, so it was a special treat to watch something on his. But more than the technology, I was enchanted by watching the dancing skeletons playing their vertebrae like xylophones and swishing their entire bodies back and forth. Seeing them prance through the night in their creepy black and white glory was pure magic. I was so impressed that I went to a friend’s house the next day and was teaching him the dance moves, and we attempted to mimic what I had seen. All these years later, I can still remember the fascination I had with The Skeleton Dance. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped loving the charm and entertainment potential that animated drawings have.

The Art of Skiing (1941) As a child, my siblings and I would anxiously await the television airing of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. We enjoyed the featured attraction, but the main course for us was watching Goofy trying to dress for the slopes and trying to make his way down the hill without maiming himself in the process. Even today, I love popping in the DVD and watching it and have even showed it to students as a non-holiday holiday treat before winter break. I also grew up watching reruns of The Carol Burnett Show and The Honeymooners, but I knew that animation provided a different kind of satisfying laughter. Every time The Art of Skiing aired, it was Disney magic. I was later to learn that there was much more Disney magic waiting to be discovered.

Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life (1981) It would be many years before I would ever know who Hayley Mills was, but at some point in my youth, I saw part of this special on television. In it, as a promotion for The Fox and the Hound, Hayley Mills tours the studio, learning about the process and history of Disney animation before she was to start recording the voice of Eilonwy in The Black Cauldron (which was never to happen). I saw a portion of this episode of The Wonderful World of Disney in a re-broadcasting some years later, and for many years (until I found a video copy), I held onto clear memories of seeing it. It was exciting for me to see how animation was achieved through Mills’ conversation with Donald Duck. I loved hearing about the morbid-sounding morgue (much more cool to hear as a child than the Animation Research Library) and hearing how Glen Keane found inspiration in drawings from Lady and the Tramp. I was fascinated by the entire process (and, in fact, I still am). Throughout my youth, seeing bits and pieces on television about the making of Disney animated movies would prove to play a key part in my development as a Disney fan. In fact, after The Art of Skiing, my favorite part of the yearly broadcast of Mickey’s Christmas Carol was a tagged-on advertisement for the newest Disney animated feature.

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